Having heard an appeal filed by 50-year-old Bibi Sharima-Gopaul and her younger lover, Jarvis Small – who are seeking to overturn their 45-year jail term for the 2010 murder of Neesa Gopaul, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has reserved its ruling which will be delivered on a date to be announced.
In 2016, Sharima-Gopaul and Small were found guilty of killing the 16-year-old teen after a trial before Justice Navindra Singh at the Demerara High Court. As such, they were handed 102 and 96 years’ imprisonment, respectively.
Dissatisfied with their convictions and sentences, the duo moved to the Court of Appeal (COA). In September 2021, the COA affirmed their convictions but reduced the jail term to 50 years each.
The duo was not satisfied with the ruling there and moved to the CCJ - the court of last resort for Guyana and mount separate appeals.
President of CCJ, Justice Adrian Saunders, and CCJ Judges Maureen Ragnauth-Lee, Peter Jamada, Jacob Wit, and Denys Barrow heard several arguments from the Sharima-Gopaul’s and Small’s lawyers on Tuesday.
Sharima-Gopaul is being represented by Attorney-at-Law Arudranauth Gossai, while Nigel Hughes and Ronald Daniels are representing Small.
Among other things, the convicts’ lawyers contended that Justice Singh failed to properly direct the jury backed by highly prejudicial evidence.
Moreover, they claimed that Appeal Court Judges- Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag) Yonette Cummings-Edwards and Justices of Appeal Dawn Gregory-Barnes and Rishi Persaud– failed to outline how they arrived at the sentences thoroughly.
Further, Hughes presented that the Appeal Court wrongly considered certain legal principles, which led to the “gravest miscarriage of justice,” resulting in his client's conviction. In light of this, he urged the Trinidad-based court to set aside their client's conviction and sentence.
In light of the arguments, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Shalimar Ali-Hack, SC, contended that there was no miscarriage of justice, adding that the evidence presented was safe.
“This was a very serious case. It concerned a mother betraying her [daughter’s] trust with her lover killing… The daughter suffered a brutal murder,” the DPP said while asking the court to dismiss the appeal given that it lacks merit.
Small and Sharima-Gopaul were in a relationship, and at one time, Small had even lived with the 50-year-old woman at Leonora, West Coast Demerara (WCD).
Nessa’s body was found submerged in a suitcase in the Madewini Creek in the vicinity of the Emerald Towers Resort on October 2, 2010, and at the time, it was believed to be headless.
However, after a Post Mortem Examination (PME), it was revealed that the body was not headless but was instead clobbered beyond recognition.
Dumbbells similar to those seen in a gym owned by Small were found tied to the suitcase when the teen's body was found.
In addition to the body, the teen’s passport, which was reported missing just days prior to her death, was found.
The prosecution had stated that the teen was killed between September 23, and October 4, 2010, at Madewini, Linden-Soesdyke Highway.